Growing Organic Coffee
Agricultural or Cultural Farming Methods
In Kona we have a unique landscape that is based on a mountain slope. Slopes are based on either Mount Hualalai or Mount Mauna Loa in the Kona District, and this slope does have well-drained soil, which is high in organic matter and lava rock. This slope prohibits the use of mechanical picking, as mechanical pickers are top-heavy and would fall over if use was attempted in Kona. As a result, our trees are all hand-picked and this does add a touch of human intervention, which raises the quality of the cherry to red, ripe cherry which is harvested during harvest season (July-January).
The Agricultural component at Mountain Thunder is probably the most important since it is where all the cherries start. If we are doing anything but our best work in this arena, our two mills will bear the brunt of the work to remove the defective beans, such as undeveloped cherries (floaters), sours which come from over-ripe beans, or faded beans which come from under-ripe green cherries. The story goes that if the farmer does his or her best to prune the tree correctly, fertilize and maintain soil balance and equilibrium with prudence and then pick or harvest at the right time with due diligence, then s/he will have done his or her part to contributing to the best cup of coffee.
At Mountain Thunder, whether the farm is in our own estate management program or the farm happens to be one of our own Mountain Thunder Organic Farms, our professional agricultural workers are rewarded for good effort and excellent husbandry. Our farms are also tended to by experienced organic agricultural consultants which adds a note of extra special care from nurturing the soil to pruning and setting production goals for our fields. The prize farm at Mountain Thunder is our Organic Cloud Forest Estate in Kaloko, Kona, Hawaii from which the coffee has won 15 awards to date.
One special pioneering aspect of our farming techniques has to do with our use of animals to control weeds and cycle nitrogen through our agroecosystem. As you probably may already know, the largest pool of nitrogen on the earth is in the atmosphere. The hard part in agriculture is getting the nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil where the plants can use it to produce fruit and harvestable crops, or as in our case coffee cherry. We cultivate weeds to be eaten by our grazing animals so that their digestive systems will process the weeds into a nitrogen-rich form to be deposited right back on top of the soil. Our soil testing indicates that we have an adequate supply of nitrogen in our soils and so we do not need to add nitrogen, because if we did, we may add too much making the soil contain a toxic levels of nitrogen. Our pioneering work with animals helps us maintain weeds, and maintain high levels of nitrogen, two aspects of organic farming which pose a developmental problem to managing organic crops. We also believe that this management style contributes to sugars and starches being developed in the bean which lend to a unique flavor and the embodiment of the perfect Kona Flavor, thus our 15 awards to date.